Two Things That Can Tarnish Your Online Business

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article
There are two fundamental aspects of digital commerce that have the potential to tarnish the reputation of your success; the loading speed of your website and the credibility of your email account. Indeed, there are many essential ingredients every business needs but perhaps there are none more important in the sphere of online business than the load speed of your website and the amount of emails that get through to your list of subscribers.

First off, let’s take a look at your email account.

Email marketing is one of the most essential ways to communicate with customers today, indeed it is one of the most essential aspects of digital marketing, yet it can be notoriously difficult as often commercial emails end up in spam folders.

Today, there are over a hundred different SPAM blacklists in operation but with the use of certain tools and strategies such as using email list verification, this risk can be mitigated in order to ensure the majority of emails do get through to their intended recipients.

Now, let’s look at how the loading speed of your website.

It’s well known that there’s a direct correlation between the loading time of your website and bounce rate, that is to say the number of people that visit your site but leave straight away; just like in the offline retail world, where a customer walks into a shop then walks straight out.

In fact, to better explain the term ‘bounce rate’ it can help to picture a busy shopping centre – where people are walking around browsing or searching for a particular solution. In the shopping centre, signposts help point people in the right direction, whereas in the online world, Google is the authority.

In the offline retail world, people naturally browse a few different stores based on the attractiveness of their retail display amongst other factors such as brand awareness and perceived relevance to their needs.

Now, as the store owner once they come through the door, it’s your job to engage them with special offers, product demonstrations, engaging retail displays, and relevant ideas to solve a problem they face.

In essence, your job as a retailer is to engage consumers so they spend as much time in your retail environment as possible – for there’s a direct correlation between the amount of time spent in a store and the amount of money spent. This is why large retail brands invest so much in visual merchandising.

Now, in the digital world, if you have high traffic but low engagement this is known as having a high bounce rate.

The reason a high bounce rate will cripple your online business success is because it’s akin to people walking in your store, and then straight back out, without buying anything. Whilst a high bounce rate can be attributed to many factors such as a lack of engaging content, or a lack of perceived relevance, it has been found that 40% of potential customers will leave your website if the site takes more than 3 seconds to load.

This is particularly pertinent in our increasingly impatient digital world and therefore we’re going to take a brief look at three ways to optimise the loading speed of your website.

1. Hosting

Load speed can be somewhat contingent on your hosting provider, and therefore, it’s something you should seriously consider before committing to a provider. If you have a high volume of traffic to your website then you might want to consider upgrading to private hosting, as this can offer a much speedier service in terms of load speed.

2. Optimize Images

Many website owners use large image files and then scale them down automatically using CSS, to be displayed on the user’s device. This might not seem like a problem, but the challenge is the browser has to load the full size image, then scale it down, which is a very inefficient way to process photos – and this can seriously affect load speed.

3. Enable Browser Caching

When you regularly visit a website some of the elements of that web page are stored on your hard drive, in a temporary storage folder, known as a cache. As a website owner, if you enable browser caching it means you are able to temporarily store data on the user’s computer which means they will have a much faster loading experience.

Three Keys to a Good Online Reputation

Headlines today are filled with cell phone videos of bad behavior, verbal attacks in the twitter-verse, and disturbing incidents of cyberbullying. In our everyday lives, disgruntled customers or employees tarnish reputations of local businesses or past employers and jobs are lost or never offered because of inappropriate social media sharing. Business owners who want to have better control of their reputation online should follow these three key pieces of advice:

How to Protect (Or Destroy) Your Reputation Online1. Build your reputational firewall

Build your online firewall. If your business could be hijacked by negative reviews and online attacks, then you need to ensure that you regularly publish your positive news and build a legacy of positive internet results. It’s tougher for negative information to take center stage in the future if there’s already a lot of positive information anchoring top search results.

Stake your claim to your name. This is really basic stuff but it merits repeating. In a crisis, it is important for your customers and the public to be able to hear your news as directly as possible from the source. Your company should have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a LinkedIn page if for no other reason than it verifies your company’s identity and authenticates your news.

Address negative info. If there’s negative information about your company posted online, you have to react in some way. Review sites generally enable companies to respond to comments, both positive and negative. Take advantage of this option. Damaging content can be removed in some cases, but simply allowing negative information to remain unchecked is typically not a good strategy.

2. Get a handle on online review sites

Review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List and Glassdoor are growing in both popularity and authority with search engines. The more companies participate on the sites, the bigger the sites become and authority grows. The impact is building. As one review site executive said to me: “The genie is out of the bottle.” Review sites are here, they are dominating search results, and they can’t be ignored.

Claim or create your company page on the main review sites. Your company may not yet have a listing on a site like Yelp, but any customer or interested party could create one without your knowledge and certainly without your consent. Business owners should look at the main review sites and either claim their page if one has already been created or create their own listing – this will give you a small level of control.

Build out your review site listings. Across the board, executives from review sites recommend completing profiles and adding information to business listings. Up-to-date photos, videos and descriptions increase page views as well as interest from prospective customers or employees. Plain listings without images look stale as customers on review sites are typically interested in getting current information.

Engagement. Likely the biggest trend in online reviews centers on engagement. Interaction between businesses and their customers helps build the overall sense of community, and executives from review sites universally advocate for responding to both positive and negative reviews.

Don’t try to fix “crazy.” When speaking with one executive who has had tremendous success with Yelp, he mentioned that they have some very simple rules. His company will bend over backwards for his customers, but “we don’t do crazy.” Sometimes customers have outrageous expectations, and every business owner has dealt with clients who may not be “all there in the head.”

3. In case of emergency, know your options

When confronted with negative online content that hinders your business or damages your reputation, the best advice is to remain calm and make a sound assessment. While the first reaction may be to blast away at the hate blog, defamatory post, negative news article, or nasty review, we have found that it makes more sense to slow down and develop a strategy before confronting the source.

Negotiate removal. Most websites are run by legitimate businesses that have no interest in publishing false, tasteless or potentially defamatory content. Of course, some sites are run by neurotic bloggers, but the vast majority have sensible human beings at the controls. If you are dealing with negative web postings or negative articles posted on a corporate site or corporate message board, it may be possible to negotiate removal.

Suppress, push-down or bury. When you research online reputation management companies, you quickly learn that they offer a distinct service known in the industry as “suppression.” They will create new, benign web content with the hopes of pushing down or suppressing negative search results. This tactic can be very effective, but it isn’t always the best solution, or the most economical

The idea is that you flood the Internet with positive content about you or your company and work to push down, bury, or “suppress,” the negative content. Information is not removed from search results but rather pushed farther down the search result pages to a point where fewer people will see it.

Remove it using the Covert Ops of reputation management. One of the Internet’s big secrets is that digital is not necessarily forever. The common belief is that once something is posted online, it will stay there forever. Many people endure a feeling of helplessness at this thought, but options exist. Content can actually be removed from search results and sometimes entirely from cyberspace. There are folks who can make things disappear from search results. It’s a fairly exclusive thing and exactly how it works I can’t explain, but we have been able to get stories and posts completely removed from search results These tactics are not the same thing as suppression, which pushes negative information further down the search results. I’m talking about either removing or hiding negative content.

More information about protecting your online reputation is available in How to Protect (Or Destroy) Your Reputation Online (Career Press, October 2016).

About the Author

John P. DavidFor more than 25 years, John P. David has counseled businesses and executives on strategic communications and marketing issues. He has developed a specialty helping clients facing online attacks because, sadly, anyone can publish negative information online, seemingly without consequences. His strategic communications firm, David PR Group, counsels clients in the areas of marketing, reputation management, and public relations. He frequently writes about communications and strategy on The Huffington Post. Follow him at @JohnPDavid.